The good thing was that AC Milan were back in the place where they actually belong – they have been the masters of Champions League and their return was greeted with a banner that read “25/05/05 – There are places I remember” at Anfield which was lively and vibrant. Yet again, Liverpool and AC Milan and orchestrated another Champions League classic – a game to remember.

There were lofty expectations for Group B from the moment a heavyweight draw was made. A high-octane, high-quality opener at Anfield exceeded them. Milan initially received a brutal lesson in how elite European football has developed in the seven years since they were last in the Champions League as Jurgen Klopp’s side threatened to overwhelm Stefano Pioli’s team.

Liverpool flew into Milan from Mohamed Salah’s kick-off, feeding off the Anfield atmosphere that was sorely missed last season.

Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson caused all sorts of problems with trademark runs from full-back and met surprisingly little resistance from the visitors’ compact defence.

Salah was another prominent thorn in Milan’s side. One ingredient in Liverpool’s commanding start was less predictable; however, it was the lesser-spotted Divock Origi.

Klopp had to rotate at some point and having helped keep three clean sheets in four matches on his return from injury Virgil van Dijk was rested, along with Sadio Mane.

Stefano Pioli made three changes to his team after their win over Lazio last time out, with Kjaer, Bennacer and Saelemaekers all brought into the team. Romagnoli, Tonali and Florenzi start on the bench, where Giroud was also named after recovering from coronavirus.

Alexander-Arnold instigated the breakthrough when exchanging passes with Salah and surging into the Milan area. Tomori flew in to intercept Alexander-Arnold’s attempted delivery across the face of goal only to deflect the effort up and over his already committed goalkeeper.

Liverpool received a glorious opportunity to double their advantage when Robertson’s volley struck the raised arm of Ismael Bennacer inside the area.

The Polish referee immediately pointed to the spot, booked the impressive Milan midfielder and ignored the angry protests that followed.

Salah drove his penalty down the centre of the goal, too close to Mike Maignan who pushed the effort away and also foiled Diogo Jota from the follow-up.

What an opportunity wasted and Liverpool had to pay for that.

Sharp, incisive passing opened up the right of Liverpool’s defence on both occasions. The equalizer arrived from a flowing move out of defence that ended with Rafael Leao’s first-time ball finding Ante Rebic unmarked inside the Liverpool area. The Milan striker instantly tucked his shot beyond the exposed Alisson.

Within three minutes the visitors were ahead. Leao weaved his way down the Milan left before finding Rebic in a similar position to his goal.

This time Rebic drew Alisson and squared to Theo Hernández, who had joined the attack from left-back and saw his anticipated tap-in stopped on the line by Robertson. Brahim Díaz, however, followed up for a simple finish.

Simon Kjær thought he had added a third shortly after the restart when Henderson missed an attempted clearance at the near post and the Denmark captain converted at the back – but it was offside.

Liverpool did not panic and their composure under pressure led to another comeback.

Salah, after receiving a ball from Fabinho and holding off his marker, found his strike partner and immediately darted into the area. Origi scooped the return over the Milan defence for Salah to convert with an improvised finish.

The Reds increased the pressure which resulted in a corner for Alexander-Arnold.

Bennacer headed clear at the near post but only as far as Henderson who, catching the ball on the half volley, swept a superb shot inside Maignan’s bottom corner from the edge of the area.


What a match!

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